Sunday, March 15, 2020

Weakness of Think Tanks in Central Asia Increasing Problem for Countries There, Platon.Asia Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 9 – The think tanks of Central Asia – 31 in Kazakhstan, 12 in Uzbekistan, 28 in Kyrgyzstan and seven in Tajikistan but “for understandable reasons” none in Turkmenistan – are too weak to figure anywhere on international rankings and too weak to help the governments and peoples of the region avoid disaster, according to Platon.Asia.

            The Kazakhstan-based portal dedicated to publishing research on society and politics across the region says that these centers are not found at all on an international rating of think tanks and are far down the list in one compiled by the Moscow Carnegie Center concerning those in the post-Soviet space (

            Chief among the reasons for this, the portal’s editors say, is that “the Central Asian ‘brain trusts’ usually work directly or indirectly for government organs and are financed by the state or by top government officials. And as is well known, he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Thus, they are not in a position to give an independent assessment of developments.

            As a result, instead of providing a check on the views and actions of the powers that be, the think tanks represent an echo chamber which confirms the authorities in their positions and a megaphone which spreads the positions of the authorities under the false cover of a semi-academic gloss.

            “The overwhelming majority of leading power and pro-power analysts are from well-off families and the intelligentsia and are quite seriously cut off from the world of ordinary people and their lives.” Thus, the analysts fail to see what is going on because they have blinders on that prevent that from occurring.

            Moreover and related to this, “many of our analysts in their work operate primarily on the theoretical positions of Western social science, the terms of which cannot be completely applied for making sense of our social reality” while most are dominated by “primitive pro-Marxist methodology” which assumes that people act only on the basis of economic interests.

            The authorities in these countries don’t want to see the development of any philosophy of science that could challenge either of these positions, and that is why that field of inquiry does not exist in Central Asia today, the editors continue.  They are happy to point to think tanks that are decorative rather than providing any real thinking or guidance.

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